What is a coaching session? Does it necessitate a quiet room, with soft lighting and muzak? Does it mean comfortable chairs facing one another with two hours set aside for deep exploration? I hope not because if this were the case the average manager would not be able to utilise the simple principles which I aim to show can be used in a fraction of the time and as part of everyday working conversations.

I can understand this viewpoint and I think the coaching profession encourages it; it makes it seem as if coaching must ALWAYS occur at this level to be helpful, but it doesn’t. A trained Life or Executive coach may well work at this depth to bring about the significant and permanent change for which they have presumably been hired but the coaching manager is less concerned with causing tearful epiphanies and more concerned with restoring focus and improving performance on the job. This can be done far quicker.

Most coaching is supported by a questioning framework. I devised the coaching ARROW and although this comes with a wide range of sample questions, it can be boiled down to five:

A – Aims – What do you want?

R – Reality – What’s happening now?

R – Reflection – How big is the gap?

O – Options – What could you do?

W – Way Forward – What will you do?

These five simple questions give us an opportunity to coach at great speed. On their own they will not create fundamental change or improvement but they will create focus and mobility. These being, in my view, the desired outcomes of any coaching conversation in a work context. Let’s say you had a colleague about to make an important business pitch and you wanted to add a little coaching to the conversation. Asking ‘What do you want?’ could really get them focused on a positive outcome and ready to bring it about. It’s not dissimilar to an athlete mentally rehearsing the race in their mind as they settle into the blocks. Imagine, talking to another colleague who had just returned from a meeting that had gone spectacularly well, but they were unsure why. Exploring ‘What’s happening now?’ immediately afterwards could really bring some insight and learning to bear.

You’ll find that when your people become used to being coached in this way they’ll come with Aims, Reality, Reflection and Options already thought through. They just want to check things out with us and get some ‘permission’ from us for the way forward.

I think of this technique as Martini coaching: ‘Anytime. Anyplace. Anywhere’ I have taught the technique to managers who hardly ever see their team, but can still do some good coaching around the coffee machine, in the lift or on a car journey. Another tip is to self-coach before you settle down to tackle an important task by having the questions on a small card and working through them. It’s okay to go for the formal setting for the major converations, but never underestimate the usefulness of a quick, but focused conversation in the moment when it’s needed.

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